The David Price rumors are abound, and there is plenty of speculation on who he will be going to. So far the rumors are mainly that Price is going to be traded to a contender who needs a boost for this year’s playoff run. But that isn’t necessarily the case. If Price is open to signing an extension with whichever team he is traded to, then that means he could be traded to a non-contender who looks to contend within the next couple of years. With that in mind, could the Chicago Cubs be a potential candidate to trade for Price?
There are three main criteria that a team must fit to be able to acquire Price, the first being the need for him. The Cubs aren’t going to compete this year, and probably not next year. But, they have a good minor league system, headlined by some high upside bats. Where their system lacks is in pitching- their top two pitching prospects are a guy with serious durability questions (C.J. Edwards) and one who doesn’t have frontline starter upside (Pierce Johnson). With extension talks with their ace Jeff Samardzija unsuccessful to this point, the Cubs need someone who is going to be their ace for years to come. They don’t have that within their system, so they are going to have to go outside the system to get it, and they could do that with Price. Of course, Price might not be willing to sign an extension, and that would throw off any Price-Cubs deal. But, Chicago has been a desirable place to play in the past, and they have an up-and-coming system. The Cubs might be able to convince Price to sign an extension, and thus he could be a player that they desire.
The second criteria is having the payroll necessary to bring on Price. That will not be a problem with the Cubs. After having payrolls of $144 and $133 million in 2010 and 2011, the Cubs’s payroll has continually fallen. This year it sits at just $92 million, which is the first time it has been under the $100 million mark since 2007 (Hat tip to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for the info). All of this points to the Cubs having the payroll needed to add Price. In fact, they could offer him a healthy extension, and the money factor may be a big way to convince Price to sign an extension.
The last criteria is having the young talent necessary to acquire Price, which the Cubs absolutely have. Of course, having the talent and being willing to part with it are two different things, but it is always hard to tell if a front office will be willing to part with their prospects until they actually do it. The Cubs system is headlined by SS Javier Baez and 3B Kris Bryant, and also includes other good bats in Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber (unable to be traded until next year because he was just drafted this year) Arismendy Alcantara, Dan Vogelbach, and Christian Villanueva. They are much weaker on the pitching side, but the aforementioned Edwards and Johnson are solid prospects, and they have some other interesting names in Corey Black, Paul Blackburn, and others. The Cubs have the talent needed to get a deal done.
This is a tough deal to put a hand on, as the Cubs are going to resist offers on top prospects Baez and Bryant, but the Rays would certainly want to deal for them. This trade excludes both of them, but the Rays would still be acquiring a wealth of talent. Almora, the 6th overall pick in 2012, has struggled a bit this year at High-A, but still has the potential to be an above-average 5-tool player. Alcantara has a good all-around bat and is close to being a big-league ready middle infielder. He could also be transformed into a super-utility man a la Ben Zobrist. Tseng has impressed as a 19 year old at Low-A, showcasing good stuff and command along with pitchability beyond his years. This deal is risky, as 2/3 players in it have never played above Class-A ball. But, it provides tremendous upside to the Rays, and it would be a good return.
All-in-all, a Tampa Bay Rays-Chicago Cubs David Price deal is a possibility. It does depend on many factors, like whether Price would sign an extension, whether the Cubs would include Baez or Bryant or whether the Rays would take a deal without them, and whether the Cubs would give up some promising young talent to acquire Price now even though they won’t compete for at least two years. The Cubs are just one of many potential suitors for Price, so we will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.